Few get to have a career with as much longevity as Dolph Lundgren. Even fewer, a career with as much breadth. Movie star. Martial Artist. Author. Director. Fullbright scholar. Sex symbol.
When I found out I was doing this interview, I tell him the first word that came to mind was "legendary." With a genuine-sounding humility, he says, "I guess I can accept that. After all, I have done 70 plus movies over almost four decades. When you've been in the public eye long enough, a lot of people just feel that they've known you or heard about you for most of their lives. I suppose that constitutes 'legendary.'"
There's his big break in Rocky IV, in which Lundgren was selected out of 5,000 hopefuls to play the part of Ivan Drago — "the most perfectly trained athlete ever" — opposite Sylvester Stallone. But there's also a whole life lived before that breakout role. Time spent in the Swedish Marine Corps. A master's degree in chemical engineering. And, of course, his highly publicized relationship with Grace Jones. And then a whole life that spawned from that. He-Man in Masters of the Universe, Frank Castle in The Punisher, Gunner Jensen in The Expendable franchise and King Nereus in DC Comics's Aquaman, as well as reprising the role of Ivan Drago in Creed II.
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But his latest role — in addition to upcoming parts in the Minions, Aquaman and Expendable franchises — is taking him back to his modeling roots (something he got out of after being told he was too muscular at the outset of his career) with a new campaign for Swedish design house CDLP. Together, they are teaming up to launch the brand's new capsule collection Mobilité, a new line of sportswear essentials for the fast-growing brand.
"We don't have that many good looking Swedish guys that are famous," Artistic Director and CDLP Co-Founder Christian Larson says with a laugh when asked about working with Lundgren, before adding: "He put us on the global map."
Lundgren is a natural fit not only for his star power and shared birthplace with the brand, but as someone who has actively sought to expand notions of what masculinity means. "Dolph really represents the ultimate alpha male," says CDLP CEO and Co-Founder Andreas Palm. "And when we opened up the conversation with him it quickly became clear that his philosophy with the training has pivoted from being about the alpha male to training for the mind, and it felt like a marriage between the way we think about this collection and the way that he's transitioned over to another purpose."
Below, a chat about that other purpose, boxers or briefs, and more.
Fulbright scholar. Came to the states to study engineering. What was it about acting that appealed to you and has there ever been any moments of "what if…"?
I was attracted to the emotional part of acting. I had done some theater when I was a teenager, but chose engineering to impress my dad, who along with my older brother were both engineers. Now, I realize that the trauma I was carrying from the physical abuse I suffered as a young child was still brewing inside me. Martial arts and acting were both ways to release that tension. Once I decided to switch paths, I've never looked back.
I know your workout regime for Rocky IV was insane and you followed that up shortly thereafter with your workout video, Maximum Potential, and then as recently as last year with your book, Extreme Fitness: How to Train Like An Action Hero. What is your workout regime like these days? How has it evolved over the years?
I do strength and cardio, plus some functional training because of many old injuries. Normally, I'll do four days in the gym; when I'm filming I try to do two. My fiancé Emma Krokdal is a great trainer and she is helpful to design my routine. I pretty much stick to the basics to maintain and build muscle.
Is there a celebrity whose body you look at and go, "Man, they're fit as fuck. I want to know what they're doing at the gym" I'll go first: Chris Hemsworth.
There are a lot of very fit people out there. Men and women. I know the kind of dedication it takes and admire all of them, including Hemsworth.
Speaking of superheroes.You starred in Marvel's The Punisher before superhero films became the behemoth they've become. What has it been like for you to witness the rising dominance of this genre over the last two decades?
It surprised me that it became so huge. I guess the computer-generated imaging helped to make these the biggest films of our times. Also, pay-per-view and Netflix have taken over the more drama-based stories that earlier used to play on the big screen.
During your relationship with Grace Jones you became an obsession for the tabloids. What did that increase in visibility, and with it the scrutiny, do for you? Was it a positive? A negative? Both?
Both. It taught me about fame and what that means. The highs and lows. It also indirectly caused our break up, in addition to me being in Rocky IV, and fame really hit me hard after that.
The CDLP MOBILITÉ campaign photoshoot — you embody the collection and ethos perfectly. How was it shooting the campaign?
A sheer delight. CDLP and its creative people were great to work with, especially since we did the shoot at my home in Marbella.
The people gotta know: Boxers or briefs?
Briefs. I need that tight control.
How would you describe your style? Has it evolved over the years?
Casual, with the occasional suit or black tie for red carpet events. I used to be more self-conscious about my look. Now, I feel that most things I put on seem to work for me. I guess that with age you just feel more comfortable with yourself.
You have not one. Not two. But three sequels in the works with Minions: The Rise of Gru, Aquamanand the Lost Kingdom, and Expendable 4. Anything you can tease about any of those projects?
Well, it's all very secretive. All I can say is that these are three very well-made and entertaining films that hopefully will be enjoyed by many fans, young and old.
You've been afforded to travel the world in ways many can only envy. What has being such a global citizen taught you about humanity or enriched about your own time on Earth?
Look, there's this actor's monologue I used to warm up with where a father speaks to his unborn daughter about what to expect from life. It ends with, "We are all the same thing. An ocean bottled into the illusion of individuality. The sun is getting lower, the dying light putting everything into perspective. With any luck, your final thoughts will be of gratitude. There was no point... only a shared experience." That's what life has been to me: a wonderful shared experience.
Welcome to "Wear Me Out,"a column by pop culture fiend Evan Ross Katz that takes a look at the week in celebrity dressing. From award shows and movie premieres to grocery store runs, he'll keep you up to date on what your favorite celebs have recently worn to the biggest and most inconsequential events.
Photos courtesy of CDLP